Peters’ power slips out of hands

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Un­til re­cently, Win­ston Peters seemed the likely king-maker at this year’s elec­tion. Yet Na­tional is so far out in front that it can prob­a­bly gov­ern alone with­out need­ing to do elec­torate deals with the Act Party, the Con­ser­va­tives or United Fu­ture.

Such deals now seem merely the ic­ing on the cake. Nor is Na­tional un­der any press­ing need to court New Zealand First.

Clearly, it would be fool­ish to count Peters out just yet. New Zealand First may get enough ex­tra lift from its an­nual con­fer­ence last weekend that we may soon be prais­ing Peters for how well he’s timed his late run for this elec­tion. Yet Na­tional’s cur­rent lead is un­likely to col­lapse in the home stretch, at least not enough to give hope to its ri­vals.

Labour in par­tic­u­lar, now seems less fo­cused on win­ning the elec­tion than on lim­it­ing the car­nage. Cur­rently, it is polling in the mid 20s and head­ing south to­wards the lev­els plumbed by Na­tional’s 20.93 per cent re­sult in 2002.

Labour’s poll num­bers vir­tu­ally en­sure that Peters will not be lin­ing up with the cen­tre-left bloc, post- elec­tion. That prospect al­ways did seem like wish­ful think­ing, yet Labour’s tac­tics all year – from float­ing a com­pul­sory Ki­wisaver scheme to shun­ning a Labour/ Greens al­liance – have been a se­ries of love letters sent to Peters, all in vain.

As things stand, any vot­ers who truly want to put New Zealand first are likely to see New Zealand First (a) oc­cu­py­ing an ir­rel­e­vant po­si­tion on the cross benches or (b) join­ing the rab­ble of small par­ties around Na­tional’s throne.

This year, New Zealand First cel­e­brated its 21st year of ex­is­tence. Its prime ap­peal has al­ways been to older vot­ers, yet Peters’ party has shown an abil­ity to at­tract new re­cruits, even as time has thinned the ranks of those who came aboard when Peters was in his prime.

Early this year, the Maori blog­ger Mor­gan God­fery pro­vided a bril­liant de­scrip­tion of Peters’ en­dur­ing ap­peal: ‘‘Win­ston speaks to a New Zealand that feels un­der ide­o­log­i­cal and de­mo­graphic siege . . . to people who yearn for a New Zealand that never ex­isted. Win­ston speaks to their imag­i­nary past.’’

The party’s pitch is to those New Zealan­ders who feel adrift, God­fery ar­gues, now that mar­ket forces have dis­solved both the egal­i­tar­i­an­ism of the Nor­man Kirk era and the strong state cap­i­tal­ism cham­pi­oned by Rob Mul­doon. ‘‘ Win­ston’s people are wor­ried about eco­nom­ics and lead­er­ship. That’s the source of their angst, but race is its ex­pres­sion. Why? Be­cause race rep­re­sents their ide­o­log­i­cal losses to­day and their de­mo­graphic ir­rel­e­vance to­mor­row. Im­mi­gra­tion – and Maori bash­ing, of course – is the light­ning rod of their un­ease . . .’’

For now, the main threat to New Zealand First is com­ing from the Con­ser­va­tives, the shiny new ve­hi­cle for those vot­ers who re­sent the mod­ern tri­umphs of so­cial and eco­nomic lib­er­al­ism.

Na­tion­wide, Colin Craig is pre­sent­ing him­self as a younger, more dy­namic ver­sion of the old trouper. Peters’ po­ten­tial threat to stand in East Coast Bays, if that seat is gifted to Craig by Na­tional, is one way of tack­ling that prob­lem, head-on.

A cage fight be­tween Craig and Peters in East Coast Bays could well pro­vide New Zealand First with pub­lic­ity, and help it across the 5 per cent thresh­old. Any­thing else for Peters, post- elec­tion, would be gravy.

GOR­DON CAMP­BELL

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.